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The affirmative-action Kevin Bacon game

Back in the 1990s, the internet phenomenon du jour, the lolcat or Rickrolling of its day, was the Kevin Bacon game. Invented by a pair of college students, it was based on the premise of six degrees of separation: Kevin Bacon could be linked to anyone in Hollywood on the basis of films in which he was involved. So, if you wanted to link Kevin Bacon to Errol Flynn, you would get:

Errol Flynn (I) was in Roots of Heaven, The (1958) with Eddie Albert.
Eddie Albert was in Big Picture, The (1989) with Kevin Bacon.

Try it with any actor you can think of, and you will eventually get back to Kevin Bacon.

Now, you may be thinking: What on earth does the Kevin Bacon game have to do with affirmative action? Well, I noticed, after years of debating with expats and conservatives on the Mail & Guardian forum, that they blamed affirmative action for every problem faced by South Africa, regardless of the logic of the link. I wondered whether it would be possible to take any random noun and link it to affirmative action.

Like the Kevin Bacon game, the challenge is to link any subject to affirmative action in six steps or less, for example:

Curling — sport — quotas — affirmative action, or
Sea anemones — invertebrates — no backbone — ANC — affirmative action

Once you supply the solution, you must then provide another subject to link the two. The first subject is: asteroids. This would then give you, for example:

asteroids — astronomical salaries — BEE — AA

Or sushi:

Sushi — raw deal — AA


Bullfrog — fat, bloated toad — Cabinet ministers — AA

Neapolitan ice cream:

Neapolitan — pink, white and brown — representative of failed rainbow nation ideal — AA

You get the idea.

While the affirmative-action game could provide you with hours of subversive fun, you should also consider playing the apartheid game, where you blame everything on apartheid. Much the same principle applies. Take global warming:

Global warming — pollution — industry — Industrial Revolution — capitalist oppression — apartheid


Global warming — conspiracy — anti-development in developing countries — racist — apartheid

I’ve sometimes wondered what people do in countries where things go wrong, but it is not possible to blame affirmative action. The hole that developed in the side of a Qantas 747 recently provided an interesting example of the blame game at work. Here it was a case of:

Hole in jumbo jetinitial link to possible corrosion — questions over maintenance — lower standards because of outsourcing to Malaysia — foreign dark people not as trustworthy as Australians — affirmative action


As it turned out, the plane in question was maintained in Australia, by Australians. Still, the blame game works. If you haven’t played it before — hard to believe as that is — you really should give it a try.


  • During the day Sarah Britten is a communication strategist; by night she writes books and blog entries. And sometimes paints. With lipstick. It helps to have insomnia.